Lundh’s (2021) article, “Persons and genes. Are a gene-centered evolutionary psychology compatible with a person-oriented approach to psychological science?” compares two major theoretical frameworks in contemporary psychology. One is the array of person-oriented approaches focusing on the holistic study of individuals, and another is evolutionary psychology focused on transferring genes that foster the psychological capabilities of humans as a species. At the surface level, they might seem incompatible, as the personalized focus of the former seems hard to align with the generalized outlook of the latter. However, after exploring the central premises of both, the author concludes that the two approaches are perfectly compatible and can result in a person-oriented yet genetically informed outlook on psychology.
In the first part of the article, Lundh (2021) discusses the concept of personhood and the defining characteristics that consider a person the main unit in psychology. He notes that a person is a concept that encompasses multiple subsystems, such as mind and body, to be studied and analyzed as a whole. This holistic approach is essential because a person is a system – that is, a person as a whole is more than just a sum of its parts and possesses properties that are absent in its constituents. Apart from being holistic, the person-centered approach in psychology is also necessarily idiographic, meaning that the psychological study starts at the individual level. Finally, yet another crucial component of person-oriented psychology is interactionism, which focuses on individuals as intentional agents conscious of their decisions and actions. Therefore, the defining characteristics of person-oriented psychology, as described by Lundh (2021), are the focus on individuals and the perception of said individuals as complex systems that need to be studied as a whole. Having covered this, the author proceeds to discuss the second theoretical approach it is focused on.
Evolutionary psychology has its roots in the advances of genetics and the gradually improving understanding of the process of their replication and the humans’ role in this process. Lundh (2021) notes that the original outlook on this problem perceived genes as the replicators in the evolutionary process and organisms, including humans, as mere vehicles for gene replication. An alternative perspective raised humans to the role of interactants, suggesting that their interactions with the environment impact the process of replication and force it to produce varying results. However, Lundh (2021) points out that genes are interactants in their own right – in the sense that a DNA molecule would not be able to replicate without an organism’s environment. As a result, the distinction between “replicants” and “vehicles” or “replicants” and “interactants” becomes largely senseless due to not actually representing the nature of relations between humans and genes and the roles both play. Moreover, the specific capacities that make humans potential subjects of psychological study – communication, self-reflection, etc. – are consistently passed through generations. It suggests their evolutionary value and, thus, provides a bridge to unite person-oriented and evolutionary psychology.
As an example of the potential for collaboration between these two approaches in psychology, Lundh (2021) offers genetic genealogy. According to him, genetic genealogy rests on the premise that each individual is inherently linked to other persons. This premise is obviously in line with the gene-focused approach of evolutionary psychology because these links appear through gene replication, and some genes or combinations thereof replicate more often than others. At the same time, genealogy is needed insofar as it provides better insights into the psychological issues of a distinct single individual. This individual, in turn, is studied holistically and as a complex system, which is fully in line with the person-centered approach outlined above. Thus, from Lundh’s (2021) perspective, genetic genealogy may serve as a way of combining the genetic science of antihuman connections realized through gene replication with the practical application of this knowledge to psychological tasks. Alternatively, genetic genealogies may serve as a framework for the psychological conceptualization of connections between individual people. In either case, Lundh (2021) concludes that evolutionary and person-oriented approaches in psychology are compatible and able to benefit from each other.
As one can see, Lundh (2021) offers concise yet sufficiently thorough coverage of two major approaches in contemporary psychology- namely, evolutionary and person-oriented approaches – to discuss their compatibility. First of all, the author outlines the basics of the person-oriented approach, which focuses on an individual as a complex system capable of intentional action and requiring a holistic study. After that, he transits to the evolutionary approach and, while admitting its scientific benefits, points out that its distinctions serving to exclude humans as individuals from the evolutionary process do not stand up to criticism. Instead, Lundh (2021) stresses that human evolution consistently favors traits that enable the sense of self and interpersonal interaction, showing that individuality stressed in the person-oriented approach is a necessary evolutionary outcome. The author concludes by suggesting genetic genealogies as a practical and potentially useful way of bringing evolutionary and person-oriented psychologies together.
Lundh, L.-G. (2021). Persons and genes. Is gene-centered evolutionary psychology compatible with a person-oriented approach to psychological science? Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 55, 189–197.